Labor’s pledge to fix the Far West
Saturday, 24th June, 2017
By Daniel Stringer
The Labor Party has promised to support regional NSW if they win the 2019 state election and has committed to helping those struggling in the Far West.
In his budget reply this week, Labor Leader Luke Foley outlined his plans should he and his party be elected to power in 2019, and it is clear one of the big focuses is around regional and rural NSW.
Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Western NSW, Mick Veitch, says Mr Foley and the Labor Party recognise the importance of supporting regional communities.
“Luke Foley has made it clear that for us to win the election in 2019 we need to win regional seats and we need to gain the support of regional NSW,” Shadow Minister Mick Veitch told the BDT.
“In Regional NSW, particularly Broken Hill and the Far West, there is a negative jobs growth and a population decline, so there needs to be a shot in the arm to regional economies,” Mr Veitch said.
Broken Hill and the Far West could emerge as one of the big beneficiaries of a Labor-led government, as Mr Foley indentified his plans to scrap the payroll tax for small and medium businesses in the Far West as one of his first acts should he gain office.
Mr Veitch says the impact and the benefits of this decision shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly in an area like Broken Hill.
“If we get in government one of the early decisions we would put in place would be to abolish the payroll tax for small and medium businesses in the Far West.
“This would mean big things for communities like Broken Hill, as it would help the businesses that help support the community and the local economy.”
The other big promise made by Mr Foley is that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the state government’s share in the Snowy Hydro scheme would be invested in Regional NSW. That would mean a $4-5 billion boost to regional communities.
The Berejiklian government has committed 30% of the proceeds from the sale to regional investment and Mr Veitch says communities like Broken Hill deserve to see the full benefits of the transaction.
“We have made the commitment that every cent of the proceeds from the sale of Snowy River Hydro will stay in Regional NSW under a Foley led government.
“We are not talking 30% like the current government, we are talking 100%.
“This has got to have a positive effect on Broken Hill and the Far West, not only will it stimulate the economy but it will also improve schools, TAFE, roads, hospitals and a range of other areas and services.”
Broken Hill continues to be hit by a declining population, with the population falling by 3% over the past five years. Mr Veitch says this is one of the areas that he and his government have identified as an issue for Broken Hill and a trend they would like to reverse.
“It is clear that Broken Hill has a declining population and a large amount of that can be put down to a lack of jobs growth in the area.
“There are also issues around the management of water in the Menindee Lakes system and the lack of consultation given by the government and authorities.
“There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed that the current government has failed to address and Luke Foley wants to change that.”
Arguably one of the biggest concerns for people in Broken Hill and the Far West at the present time is the management of the Menindee Lakes and the threat that the river system is currently facing.
Mr Veitch says that in his opinion the management of the Menindee Lakes leaves a lot to be desired and promised changes under a Labor Government.
“I think the management of the Menindee Lakes is flawed.
“The first step we would take towards changing this is increasing the consultation offered to the community, because we believe the people deserve to have a say in how their water is managed.
“We can guarantee that Labor will not be decommissioning the lakes, as we see them as an important part of the environmental, social and economic structure of the region.”
The unveiling of Mr Foley’s plans appears to signify the race towards the 2019 election is heating up.
Neither Labor nor Nationals have identified their pre-selection candidates, with the Nationals having to find a replacement for current Barwon MP Kevin Humphries.